by Emily Spaeth
Early Childhood/Lower School Music Teacher
While in the midst of yet another rehearsal for our holiday concert in December, a by-stander remarked, “Is all of this practice really necessary?” It started me thinking about all of the benefits our students reap from rehearsals, leading up to a big performance. At EMS, all of our teachers understand that we have an obligation to academically prepare students for success in the classroom, but we are also committed to the other tenants of our mission: encouraging independent thinking, cultivating individual talents, and fostering a joy of lifelong learning. In other words, we focus on the "whole child." As we approach the end of the academic year, and all the special events and performances that mark the occasion, I thought it might be an appropriate time to discuss what children "get" from performance, practice and rehearsal.
1) Resilience and Diligence
No matter how much we may prepare for something, it may still not go the way we expected it to. To this end, we begin practicing for our performances months in advance. Many students think they are ready before the first all-inclusive rehearsal, but often that first rehearsal does not go well. Rather than throwing in the towel, it is important to encourage the children to brush themselves off, get back up and try again. Students learn that by examining what went wrong, fixing the problems and committing to make it better, they can succeed. We may not get it right the first time, but the children understand that they'll get it eventually, and usually the end result is better than we could have ever imagined!
When preparing for a performance, there are many moving pieces that need to be rehearsed. Oftentimes, at least a small portion of each rehearsal requires some students to sit quietly while others are practicing their parts. Learning to wait patiently is a valuable skill that children (and for adults as well) must work at consistently in order to achieve.
Patience goes hand-in-hand with Respect as during each performance we try to have a moment where each group or grade level has a chance to shine. While some are performing, the other students learn to respect the work that their fellow classmates are doing, or have done. They also learn that they don’t need to be the center of attention at all times. When they learn to share the spotlight, true understanding and collaboration is possible in their lives.
Our performances are carefully planned months in advance, in collaboration with all of the music teachers. However, during rehearsals with the full group, we sometimes realize that the song order should be changed, or a dance needs to be added. We encourage the students to understand that if they are well prepared, any changes we incur need not be upsetting. Flexibility is an important tool in success. The students see that if something is not working, it’s okay to make changes to improve it, even if it wasn’t in the initial design.
5) Attention to Detail
Many times in rehearsal, we practice small items, such as making sure the “t” at the end of a word can be heard, or the inflection of a phrase sounds a certain way. When rehearsing, students begin to understand that these tiny details can change a song from average to extraordinary. This attention to detail can carry over into everything they do.
6) Working Together as a Group
When performing with a large group, students learn that it’s important to work together. Of course, the success of the performance depends on each student doing their part to the best of their ability, but when students embrace collaboration, it teaches them that by working together, we can create something much bigger, more powerful than each of them as individuals. Think of Music as the ultimate team sport where the best part is that everyone wins!
7) Public Performance
The ability to stand up in front of a group and speak or perform is important, and musical performances can provide a valuable step in that process. While safely surrounded by their classmates, each student gets the experience of sharing their voices and talents to a large, and appreciative, audience. The confidence gained may later encourage students to speak their mind, share ideas, or become leaders.
8) Pride of Ownership
We all appreciate something more when we know we have worked hard to achieve it. When the students have diligently practiced words, music and movements for a performance, it becomes truly THEIRS. They learn to take pride in the finished product because they know that the time and energy they put into the concert is what made it spectacular.
9) Enjoying the Experience
While the week of rehearsals leading up to the performance may be challenging, students learn that with proper preparation and focus, the end product is an enjoyable and rewarding experience. It is clear to us, as educators, that the students who challenge themselves to learn the music, end up having the most fun (and less stress) because in knowing the material they can relax and enjoy the experience and accomplishment of performing.